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American League playoff race weekly recap: September 13th-19th

It's all about the Wild Card in the American League right now.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at New York Yankees Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

With only a couple of weeks separating us from October baseball, the playoff picture in the American League remains unclear. The National League still has some uncertainty in the East, but in the AL, all three divisions are more or less decided — the Rays, White Sox, and Astros have all but secured playoff berths. As for the Wild Card, though? Two contenders have pushed themselves to the front, but there’s still time for things to get weird once again.

There are two spots for five teams; each still holds a realistic chance of making it through. Having gotten that out of the way, let’s dive in and see what happened during these last seven days. To simplify matters, we’ll proceed in the order of the Wild Card standings.

AL Wild Card:

Boston Red Sox

Toronto Blue Jays

New York Yankees

Oakland Athletics

Seattle Mariners

Boston Red Sox (86-65)

Weekly Record: 5-1

The ballclub that seemed poised to make the playoffs after a terrific start to the season experienced a major decline in the second half, but they seem to have fought their way out of it. After losing a nail-biter in Seattle on Monday (5-4), the Red Sox managed to take the next two before flying home to sweep the Orioles away over the weekend, surging to the front of the Wild Card pack. They’re a full game in front of the Blue Jays for the top spot and 2.5 ahead of the Yankees.

Next week is a new challenge as the homestand continues when a couple of New York teams both fighting for a playoff spot come into town: the Mets for a couple, and then it’s Red Sox vs. Yankees next weekend.

What a time to play this series.

Toronto Blue Jays (84-65)

Weekly Record: 4-2

A lot of people thought that it was probably too late for the Jays to make the playoffs after they failed to translate their quality of play into wins, significantly underperforming their run differential throughout the season, but here they are. That seven-game winning streak against Oakland and New York really made the difference.

Toronto took two out of three at home versus the AL East-leading Rays, but Hyun Jin Ryu got hit around Friday night as the Twins stole one against the Blue Jays. Ryu hit the IL on Sunday with a neck injury, but Toronto rebounded with two straight wins over Minnesota to end the weekend.

The team now goes on the road to face the same opponents. Toronto will play three in Tampa and four in Minnesota.

New York Yankees (83-67; 1.5 GB)

Weekly Record: 4-3

The week began against the Twins with a make-up game in New York, and that’s usually good news for the Yankees, but Minnesota jumped out to a five-run lead. That had everyone concerned, but the staff managed to shut out the visitors over the final seven innings and the offense came back, ultimately winning in extras on a Gary Sánchez walk-off single.

After that, the team traveled to Baltimore and took two out of three there, though they lost a very winnable finale. Facing Cleveland at home to finish the week, Corey Kluber pitched the first game with six scoreless in an easy 8-0 win. After finally notching a blowout victory for the first time in quite awhile, the Yankees responded by allowing a poor Cleveland offense to bludgeon them on Saturday and Sunday. They lost by a combined score of 22-4.

Now on the outside of the Wild Card mix and looking in, New York will host the Rangers from Monday to Wednesday before beginning the aforementioned series in Boston.

Oakland Athletics (82-67; 2.0 GB)

Weekly Record: 5-1

The bullpen sure made it interesting in Kansas City as the A’s gave up 10 runs in each of the first two games that they split against the Royals. Oakland left town with an easy win in the rubber match (7-2) to face the Angels over the weekend. They eked out a Friday night victory, 5-4, before winning again on Saturday and Sunday to remain in the heat of the Wild Card hunt (a mere half-game behind the Yankees).

This next week will truly be the make-or-break moment for Oakland with a full slate of games at home. The A’s will play four against the Mariners and then three with the AL West-leading Astros.

Seattle Mariners (80-69; 4.0 GB)

Weekly Record: 3-3

Seattle lost two out of three to the Red Sox to finish a disappointing homestand. On Friday night against the Royals though, the highlight went to rookie Jarred Kelenic, who hit two homers that led the M’s to a 6-2 win. He homered again in a Sunday victory, but sandwiched between was another setback loss on Saturday.

At four games back and three teams ahead of the Mariners with just two weeks to play, it would take a miracle for Seattle to snap its 20-year playoff drought in 2021. They’ll pretty much have to win out and hope everyone else plummets. Next up: Seattle travels to Oakland for four and then to Anaheim for three with the Angels.